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Self-Gratification vs. National Demotion – The Legacy of Self


By Martin K. N. Kollie

Youth Activist,

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has won over 22 prestigious international awards and accolades, but what has Liberia won after 12 years under her rule?

While Madam President continues to bag more foreign awards, the nation she presides over as Head of State is dwindling and declining. Isn’t Liberia in tatters up-to-date? As the President is being promoted, Liberia is being demoted. We must never run away from the hard truth as a nation and a people. These are recent facts about Liberia under Madam Sirleaf’s reign as she flies sky-high in pursuit of self-gratification:

  1. Liberia left a 5th poorest country to 4th poorest according to Business Insider and Global Financial Magazine 2017 Report.
  1. Liberia has the least primary education system in the world according to UNICEF.
  2. Liberia now ranks 177 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index according to UNDP. It dropped from 175 to 177.

Just to name a few, but panic not as I release more intriguing information. While President Sirleaf is going up, Liberia is going down. The fact is that the personal achievements of Madam President far exceed what her government has achieved in the interest of our nation and its people while presiding over a budget of more than US$563 million per annum and US$16.9 billion Direct Foreign Investment coupled with unprecedented international support for the past 12 years.

As a human being, I would like to congratulate Madam President for receiving the Imo Merit Award in Nigeria. But in my judgment as a youth activist, what good is it to win dozens of international awards when millions of your people are awkward in terms of living standard. How come Liberians are the 4th poorest and the 8th unhappiest group of people in the World, yet Madam President proudly flies to a foreign land to receive another award.

What good is it to pretend outside when the inside is messy and muddled? A leader who only cares about building self-image and neglecting national image has got no legacy. The International accolade is good, but national recognition is better. A genuine legacy of any patriotic leader is never built upon self-gratification, but national elevation through collective gain.

How I hope our President could adopt the Magufuli’s approach – making more impact at home than focusing just on foreign recognition. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a shoe-shine boy and former President of Brazil, is heroically celebrated in his country because he lifted 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. Brazil became the world’s eighth-largest economy under his 8-year rule. How come the Harvard-trained was unable to lift just 3.5 million Liberians out of poverty in 12 years?

Ironically, the dozens of international awards won by Madam President are not reflective of prevailing realities in Liberia. Then I ask, on what basis are these awards given? Is it because of merit, friendship or lobby? For instance, the Liberian government spent about US$263 million on lobbying between 2007 and 2010 according to Representative Bhofal Chambers when the unemployment rate was above 80 percent.

What has Liberia won even though its Head of State has won over 22 prestigious awards? Take a break and a walk with me as we impartially telescope madam Sirleaf’s personal achievements versus the nation’s achievements under her 12-year presidency:

Awards won by Madam President:

  1. Recipient of the 1988 Roosevelt Institute Freedom of Speech Award
  2. Ralph Bunche International Leadership Award
  3. Grand commander Star of Africa Redemption of Liberia
  4. Commandeur de l’Ordre du Togo (Commander of the Order of Mono)
  5. 2006 Common Ground Award recipient, Search for Common Ground
  6. 2006 Laureate of the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, The Hunger Project
  7. 2006 Distinguished Fellow, Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning, Emory University.
  8. 2006 Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws from Marquette University
  9. 2006 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award from Synergos
  10. 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States, awarded to Sirleaf by U.S. President George W. Bush on 5 November 2007
  11. 2008 Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Indiana University, Dartmouth College; and Brown University.
  12. 2009 Awarded the EITI Award for “the rapid progress the country has made towards implementation of the EITI
  13. 2009 Awarded Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Tampa
  14. 2010 Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Yale University [112] and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  15. 2010 Friend of the Media in Africa Award from The African Editor’s Union
  16. Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University
  17. 2011 African Gender Award\
  18. 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
  19. 2012 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development
  20. The 70th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes – 2014
  21. Global Goalkeeper Award 2017
  22. Imo Merit Award 2017.

The status of Liberia after 12 years under President Sirleaf – Let the facts speak:

  1. Liberia is the 8th unhappiest and most miserable nation in the world (United Nations World Happiness Report, March 2017)
  2. Liberia is the 4th poorest country in the world (Global Finance Report, February 2017)
  3. Liberia has the worst primary education system. 64 percent of children are out of school (UNICEF 2016 Report)
  4. 86% of Liberia’s population is poor while 83.76% live on US$1.25 a day (UNDP 2015 Human Development Report)
  5. 640,000 which accounts for 16 percent households in Liberia are food insecure (World Food Program 2015)
  6. Out of 188 countries, Liberia ranks 177 on the Human Development Index (UNDP 2017 HDI Report)
  7. Liberia was ranked as the most corrupt country on planet earth (Transparency International GCB Report, 2013)
  8. Liberia only has 298 doctors. This means that Liberia has 1 doctor to 15,100 patients in contrast to WHO doctor-patient ratio of 1 doctor to 5,000 patients (Ministry of Health, 2017 Report)
  9. Liberia has a teenage pregnancy rate of 38% (UNFPA Report, 2012).
  10. Liberia has a National Budget of US$563.6 and a Direct Foreign Investment of over US$16.9 billion, but youth unemployment is as high as 85% (UNDAF Report, 2013-2017)
  11. Liberia had 554 rape cases in a period of 12 months (Ministry of Gender Report, January 2015)
  12. Liberia spent US$55.3 million between 2006 and 2013 just to purchase expensive cars for public officials (LIPI 2013 Report)
  13. Monrovia is the least prosperous capital city with a City Prosperity Index (CPI) of -0.313 (United Nations HABITAT Report, 2015).
  14. Only 25% of Liberia’s 4 million people have access to clean, safe drinking water (Water Aid International 2016 Report)
  15. Over 80% of Liberia’s population lack access to a decent toilet while 3.7 million people lack access to adequate sanitation (Water Aid International Report, 2016).
  16. Over 500 children die every year in Liberia from diarrhea due to unsafe water and poor sanitation (Water Aid International Report, 2016)
  17. Six (6) public offices are receiving over US$10.2 million in Liberia in a period of just 12 months (FY2016-2017) while infant mortality rate is 65.8 deaths to 1,000 live births according to the CIA World Factbook
  18. Up-to-date, no one is yet to be held accountable for signing 66 bogus concession agreements. No one is yet to give an account for NOCAL’s bankruptcy, EU’s US$14 million to reduce maternal mortality, over US$14.9 million meant to renovate the Executive Mansion and AG John Morlu’s dozens of audit reports
  19. Access to basic social services is a nightmare. Even in Monrovia, access to electricity, safe drinking water, housing, etc. is a challenge.
  20. The nation has no public library and no public playground/park. The State-run University and premier Hospital lie in ruin even after 12 years.

What then is Madam President’s legacy if I may ask? What does she have to show at home? Will she be celebrated at home or abroad after her tenure? Any President who builds his/her legacy on self-gratification has no legacy. The legacy of self is only short-lived and self-destructive. I hope the next President will prioritize NATIONAL ELEVATION over SELF-GRATIFICATION. Leadership is about selflessness and not self!

From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a NEW LIBERIA rising above the African Continent.

About the Author:

Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County.  He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar.

Martin is a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP).  He can be reached at

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